Ensemble Al Kindi & Sheikh Habboush CD "Aleppian Sufi Trance"
Songlines - March / April 2004
The current performances are characterised by a deep sence of focused devotion, notably from Sheikh Habboush, whose voice has an appropriateblend of divine finesseand rich earthiness. Al Kindi's director, Julien Jalal Eddine Weiss, has always gathered around him the most revered musicians in Aleppo, a city noted for its musical traditions. And here the recorded sound of their instruments - percussion, oud (lute), ney (flute), and qanun (zither) - is sublime, and more refined than on their previous discs (...) All in all, a release worthy of the hi-fis and coffee tables of our most discerning readers...

Ensemble Al Kindi & Sheikh Habboush CD "Aleppian Sufi Trance"
The Daily Telegraph - March 2004
The Syrian city of Aleppo is a hotbed of Islamic mystical activity of varying degrees of strangeness - piercing with knives and skewers and walking over hot coals, as well as the more regulation ecstatic trances. Yet, while this sort of colourful religiosity certainly arouses curiosity, do recordings of abstruse ceremonies - of which there are a great many on the market - make for satisfying, or indeed interesting, listening?
The answer in the case of this sufi trance session is a resounding yes on both counts. While the singing is exactly what you'd hear if you dropped in at Sheikh Habboush's meeting place in Aleppo, the musical backing is provided by a group of Syria's finest instrumental virtuosi. Hollow flute notes waver and zithers jangle ominously beneath fervent breath-heavy chanting and the Sheikh's impassioned sung narrations. It has all been carefully recorded in a Paris studio, yet the sense of devotion is real enough. The Ensemble Al Kindi's recordings add up to a magnificent survey of Arab classical and devotional music, and this is both the most austere and the most intense to date.
Mark Hudson

Sultans of Spins
Arabies Trends - England/Middle East - February 2001
Today's Whirling Dervishes are a living link to a 13th- century tradition of mystical music and dance
Sheikh Hamza represents the modern face of a 400year old Syrian musical tradition and his pure, bass voice underpins Al-Kindi's performances. Hamza is a highly respected figure whose performances to mark the main Islamic festivals are regurlarly televised in Syria.
On stage Weiss looks positevely monastic, clad entirely in black -in contrast to the musicians brightly colored satin robes - his silver hair austerely cropped, bent over his instrumtn with an air of detaced self-assurance. Sheikh Hamza is the dominant presence with a rich voice that has earned himself international acclaim.
The ceremony comprises poetry, music and whirling into a trance like state that releases the soul from it's earthly ties to communicate with God in a performance that is both relaxing and upliffting.
As the music build to a crescendo, the dervishes begins to twirl wildly, thier huge white woolen skirts, fanning out around them, their faces lifted skyward, looking strangely serene as they seek connection with the divine. As the dervishes almost vanish into a blur of whirling skirts, Jalaleddine Weiss abseorbed in the intricate strings of his qanun, permits himself a brief smile.
Karen Thomas

Al-Kindi troupe brings tradition back to Baalbeck
The Daily Star - Lebanon - August 21, 2000
Masters of oriental music bring a close to this year's festival
An evening of religious and secular music by the Ensemble Al-Kindî entranced and invigorated audience members to mark the last performance of this year's Baalbeck Festival.
Sitting amongst a lavishly decorated stage, draped in oriental rugs, the ensemble played two sets for a total of two and a half hour. Watching the rigid, technical expertise of French-born Julien Weiss on the qanoun contributed to the trance-like atmosphere even more so than the chanting of the vocalists (…)
Weiss demonstrated he is the ensemble's leader not only in name as his performance on the qanoun established the pace and direction of most songs(…)
Sarmini demonstrated why he's considered by many to be one of the most talented singers in Syria.
Timothy Homan

Al-Kindi Ensemble's divine intervention
Cyberia - Lebanon - August 20th, 2000
Throughout the evening, the sacred and the earthly blended in an inspired and inspiring way, the musical arrangements wrapped round the voices like a silk abaya.
They sat on a madd, adorned with carpets, some in fez, all with decorum, an intimate presence in the temple of Bacchus. They filled the silence without disturbing it.
Gareth Smith

CD Review - Sheikh Hamza Shakkur Al-Kindi Ensemble - The Whirling Dervishes of Damascus Songlines - United Kingdom - Winter 2000
The music of these CD's is of the first order. Sheikh Hamza Shakkur is one of the finest liturgical singers in the near East - a man of towering artistic and physical presence with a commanding baritone voice. The Al-Kindi ensemble's performances on traditional instruments are sparse and understated, but perfectly judged. You might expect the music which accompanies dervish whirling to be either wild or trancey : it is neither ; whilst obviously deeply spiritual, the overall effect is very poised and measured.
Like its predecessor, The Aleppian Music Room, also on Chant du Monde, this is a lavishly presented coffe-table album, with beautiful illustrations which will do as much to entice tourism to Damascus as a stack of colour-supplement travel articles.
Bill Badley

Traditional music in its purest form
The Advertiser - Australia - 11/03/2000
The artistic director of the Ensemble Al-Kindi J.J.Weiss is a man with a mission - to preserve, promote and extend the great tradition of Arab music and defend it from the encroachment of contemporary Western influence. His intense devotion to this task has been successful to the point of bringing his ensemble to international repute. (…) The ensemble is wonderfully relaxed on stage, with the members encouraging and complementing one another freely during the performance, which eventually led to audience to show its appreciation more freely.(…) It is clear that this ensemble merited the sustained and enthusiastic acclamation which it received.
Stephen Whittington

Evening of Rare Talent
Town Hall, Sufy Liturgy from the Great Ummayad Mosque
Huddersfield Daily Examiner - United Kingdom - November 27th, 2000
The evening offered some rare talent experiences. The lead singer, Sheikh Hamza Shakkour, displayed impressive control of his unusual vocal timbre ; no less commanding were the virtuoso players of the oriental zither, Arab lute and reed flute, especially in their brilliantly improved cadenzas.
Adrian Smith

Mysterious - World CDs - Sheikh Hamza Shakur and the Ensemble Al-Kindi
Daily Telegraph - May 06th, 2000
Sheikh Hamza Shakkur has a deep, magnificently rounded voice, whose sublime tones, could do for Islamic liturgical music what Hildegarde von Bingen did for Gregorian chants.
Choirmaster of Damascus's Ummayad Mosque, he is keeper of an ancient vocal tradition unique to this holiest of Islamic sites. It is captured on this two-CD set with a sense of awe and mystery so palpable you can practically see the Sheikh's voice drifting through the building's majestic collonades.
Julien Jalal Eddine Weiss, a French adept of Arab claasical music has added understated, yet intricate arrangements, employing the rhythms of the Whirling Dervishes.(…)
The rythms are grave and serene, the choruses stirring and the solo improvisations of lute, ney flute and Weiss's own qanun zither exquisitely beautiful. When the elements combine, the chorus and instruments answering the Sheikh's magisterial yearning, the effect is magical.
Mark Hudson

CD Review - The Aleppian Music Room
Songlines - Spring 1999
This strikingly presented two-disc set celebrates the intimate chamber that was traditionnally performed in Alleppo's cultured grand houses.
The Al-Kindi's attempt to re-create the music of a bygone era represents something of a new departure in Arabic music - this is early music of sorts, and it is propably significant that a European Julien Jalal Essine Weiss is behind the venture.(…)
The interplay between the two singers is a delight, each inspiring the other to greater feats of vocal dexterity. (…)The instrumentalists are among Syria's finest, and their sparse, poised delivery is the perfect foil to the sung poetry.
A true coffee-table CD, lavishly illustrated and with very informative booklet-notes :a fitting tribute to a fascinating city "
Bill Badley

Music on Wings - The Whirling Dervishes of Damascus
CD Review - Dutch magazine (translation)
This is one of those recordings taht will convince you that a CD can't hold sufficient information by far. One should actually be able to experience the entire cycle without interruption. If you would only create time for it, take care not to be disturbed by anything. The music will do the rest. It will lift you up and guide you along various levels of contemplation.(…)
In this music they create a grandeur and an expanse, that makes you linger in it for some hours without noticing the passage of time. Everything is transparent. You feel as if you could look way beyond the horizon. This music lends the listener wings.
René van Peer